Contract amendment puts OPDC back on the hot seat

Two trustees, president, criticize finance committee's performance on drafting "performance

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By KATHARINE GRAYSON

At a meeting Monday night, co-chairs of the village board's finance committee?#34;Trustees Robert Milstein and David Pope?#34;faced sharp criticism from some of their colleagues regarding the pair's efforts to draft "performance measurements" for the village's partner agencies.

The debate, led off by comments from Village President Joanne Trapani, came to a conclusion with the approval of an amendment to the village's contract with Oak Park Development Corporation (OPDC).

Trustee Ray Johnson drafted the amendment prior to the meeting. The changes in the contract now call for the village and OPDC boards to hold a joint meeting to "review and if applicable, enhance any or all components as follows; the OPDC mission, vision and scope of services." It also requires completion of a financial analysis and a final report with recommendations for partnership agreement modifications implemented by December 31.

"This is an effort to strengthen the partnership, not to be antagonistic," Johnson said of his amendment. "We need to put our mouth where our money is and ask the tough question, should we spending money on what we're spending money on."

Marty Noll, chair of OPDC's board of directors and president of Community Bank, could not be reached for comment on the amendment before press time.

OPDC has come under scrutiny by the village board over the last two years. The organization was established decades back to help attract and retain business throughout the village, and, in more recent years, especially in "gateway" districts.

The primary complaint from elected officials is the organization's heavy dependence on village funds. OPDC receives $300,000 from the village's general fund, $100,000 of which goes toward the agency's commercial rehabilitation program. OPDC receives an additional $100,000 in Community Development Block Grant dollars for the same program. In total, village contributions comprise roughly 80 percent of OPDC's budget.

While Johnson's comments focused primarily on OPDC, due to its level of financial dependence, other board members criticized in general Milstein and Pope's proposed measurement methods for OPDC. Both Pope and Milstein are running for village president in the April election. The goal of the effort was to craft specific criteria on which the board could judge the performance of various agencies that have formal partnerships with the village.

"I don't see anything different that will help the board next year in any way measure what we've put effort into trying to measure," said board member Diana Carpenter, also a candidate for village president.

"When I reviewed the language [in the contracts] there did not appear to be significant alterations," Trapani said.

Pope and Milstein defended their position, with Pope saying Johnson's amendment may "undermine" the mutually agreed upon measurements.

"They were interested in getting this set of outcomes into their strategy session with the board," he said.

Milstein said he did not object to holding a meeting, but said, "my only fear is that we don't micromanage these institutions."

The amendment was approved, however, after Johnson agreed to scale back his originally proposed final deadline from June 30, to December 31.

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